The Ramsey School District in New Jersey has settled a lawsuit brought by a former student who was paralyzed by a bully at Eric Smith Middle School. The district will pay $4.2 million to the family of Sawyer Rosenstein, who was paralyzed from the waist down after the last in a series of attacks by a bully.
Rosenstein was 12 years old when he was attacked for the final time by the other student. In spite of reaching out to school staff, including sending an email pleading for help from a school counselor just three months before the attack, the middle-school student was punched in the abdomen in May of 2006. The blow brought Rosenstein to his knees, but he was able to get back up afterwards. Although he experienced back pain that evening, he seemed fine otherwise.
Two days after the attack, Rosenstein screamed and collapsed. He never walked again. The attack had led to a blood clot, which starved his spine of blood and resulted in permanent paralysis.
The suit cited the email as well as attacks on other students as evidence that the school knew or should have known that the bullying was taking place. It further alleged that the school failed to take proper actions necessary to comply with state law.
The Ramsey Board of Education issued a statement in which they deny the allegations that they handled the situation improperly and stated that the decision to settle the lawsuit was made by the school’s insurance company.
Rosenstein, who currently studies communication at Syracuse University, said in an interview that he considers it important to speak out about his case so that other children who are victimized by bullies will know that they can go on to lead normal lives. He also wants to warn bullies that their behavior can have devastating consequences for their victims.
For Rosenstein’s bully, justice was slow in claiming its due. The district treated the situation lightly and meted out only a brief suspension for the attack that changed Rosenstein’s life forever. Recently, however, Rosenstein settled out of court with the attacker’s family.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, or school employment law, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district issue.